30 October 2008

The Game They Play In Heaven

Well, it's finally started. Over two hours tonight of non-stop match play, drills, and training exercises. I can't believe how much I love this game or how little attention it gets from the rest of the country who think there is no life outside the NFL or NBA. Poor, unenlightened souls.

"These rugby players with their muddied, cracked bodies, are struggling to hold onto a sense of humanity that we in America have lost and are unlikely to regain. The game may only be to move a ball forward on a dirt field, but the task can be accomplished with an unshackled joy and its memories will be a permanent delight. The men who play on that rugby field are more alive than too many of us will ever be. The foolish emptiness we think we perceive in their existence is only our own." - Victor Cahn

He sure got that right.

29 October 2008

Call For Input - Conundrum Alert

Today I posted a comment at UtMoHo's blog in which I think I finally crystallized for the first time one of what seems to me a very difficult problem with the Church's current views on homosexuality. I thought it'd be worthwhile posting here as well, and inviting other perspectives. I'd love to know if anybody has a solid answer to this.

I have actually toyed with the idea of writing to Elder Oaks to ask the following.

If the Church now acknowledges that sexual orientation is a “core characteristic” that cannot change, how can you also suggest, as you did in the same interview with Elder Wickman, that it will exist only in mortality? On what Scriptural basis do you make that statement? What is a “core characteristic,” then? Will God simply make this and other challenging “core characteristics” of His children vanish when they pass through the mortal veil? That doesn't sound very “core” to me.

It seems to me that that Elder Oaks' statement is a crucial premise for the Church's current position, one which implies that while we don't have all the answers now, gay Church members must still remain celibate in this life because God will “fix” in the next life what the Church now acknowledges that its gay members can't change. But that suggests that God afflicts some people with “core characteristics” that they not only didn't choose, but which are at odds with the plan of salvation. That sounds like the Catholic doctrine that mankind is by his very nature corrupt and sinful, something I thought the restored gospel vigorously denies. I find such a conclusion repugnant to everything I have ever believed or read in the LDS Scriptures.

Can anybody suggest how this conundrum might be resolved so I don't have to bother Elder Oaks with it?

28 October 2008

Attitude Adjustment

Perspective and attitude adjustment time. Sometimes we get our heads down so far that we forget to lift our gaze. Mine was yanked upward today quite suddenly, and I wanted to share the insight.

Some time ago my mother passed away. She was the kindest, gentlest, most truly Christian person I have ever known. She had the gift of purest faith, and her love for life and for everyone around her shone from her eyes all the time. No, she wasn't perfect, of course, but she came about as close to it in this life as anyone could. We all miss her very much.

This afternoon I was working away on a business project of some significance. I needed to send an updated document draft to some colleagues, and opened my e-mail drafts folder to find the message I'd started earlier. I scrolled down through the list of drafts and suddenly stopped when I saw—of all things—an e-mail from my mother, from about three years ago. I had no idea it was even there.

I opened it up and began to read. Instantly her gentle voice filled my mind. I could hear her speak the words on the page. It was chatty and upbeat, just like she always was, talking about this and that, family events, challenges, and hopes for the future. She said she didn't know what that future would bring, but that she trusted in God our Father to make everything turn out for the best. At the end, she said I love you, son.

That's when I lost it. I dissolved into the rest of the tears that I had held back ever since she passed away. To make things even more intense, at the same moment I was listening to Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, just this week recommended to me by a fellow blogger, and truly some of the most gloriously ethereal and heavenly music I've ever heard. It was like the perfect soundtrack for hearing the voice of an angel, the kind of music I imagine now surrounds her all the time.

One stack of Kleenexes later, when I could see well enough to write again, I realized I needed to record the experience. The waterworks continue as I write, but at least I can see the screen.

It really was like being surprised by an angel. An angel I knew, and that I knew loved me. She is not here now, but I heard her voice just the same. With a message of love and assurance. Things will be okay. Have faith. Hang on. Be patient, and be strong. You aren't alone. You are loved by more than you know. Life goes far beyond what you can see. The tapestry of eternity is gloriously colorful and infinite. Trust that its creator has His purposes for you and everyone. Reach out with your hands and your heart to others whose strength you need, and whom you can strengthen. Even when you are lonely and feel alone, you are loved.

We all have tough times, and I know some in “the family” are having some right now. Forester, October, Bror, Cadence, Josh, all of my other brethren who struggle sometimes, are you reading this? Listen to my mom. She always knew what she was talking about.

Thanks Mom. Someday I will will be able to thank you in person again. And I will introduce you to a lot of my friends that I love and who you helped too.

Your Son

The Cost of a Word

Time to set aside the jokes for a moment and reiterate something very serious.

While I've taken no public position on Proposition 8 pro or con, I have stated that intimidation, personal attacks, vandalism, threats, misrepresentation, myth-mongering, and lies are outrageous and unacceptable from either side.

I have also expressed my particular disappointment with members of the LDS Church who engage in these behaviors because they are supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard. Some outspoken Prop 8 opponents don't pretend to be anything but what they are, and they perform to expectations. But I have been dismayed to see how many Latter-day Saints haven't acted in this campaign according to the principles they allegedly espouse. To whom much [more] is given, much [more] is expected. This is no new phenomenon. But when thousands of families' futures are on the line, one would hope for a little more care and thought and selflessness from those who claim to hold themselves to higher standards.

Now Proposition 8 supporters are on record as engaging in outright extortion and blackmail against its opponents. Feel the love here. It is disgusting and I am ashamed to have any association with a group that would not speak out against such atrocious behavior.

This whole campaign is about nothing more than the definition of a single word. Same-sex couples in California already have all rights of “married” couples under state law (though not under federal law), and the Church is on record as not opposing any of those rights. In short, the Church is willing to take a huge PR hit from protesting efforts to call these relationships what they already are in everything but name. I have yet to figure out why this was the best hill to die on. It seems to me that if the Church cared about substance rather than semantics, it would have actively and consistently opposed domestic partnership laws and benefits wherever they “threatened marriage” all along. Apparently not. Who knows why.

Some Proposition 8 supporters blithely dismiss the tremendous damage already being done to the Church's public image as the inevitable result of “standing up for what's right.” While such persons may see themselves as valiantly enduring hoots and catcalls from the Great and Spacious Building, more reflective minds will also understand that there are far more of God's children out wandering in the mist than are holding onto the iron rod. Those wanderers will ultimately be attracted to and follow what they believe to be good and right and true and helpful for their and others' lives. The Church must attract as many of them as it can, and in doing so it must deal with the realities of the world in which it exists, and the way that world and these people view the Church. It can't survive in prideful isolation. It cannot simply dismiss what the world will think of it in the wake of Proposition 8, as apparently some individual members are willing to. But they are not the ones responsible for administering and expanding the Church.

I recently read a comment to a Salt Lake Tribune article about the divisions and difficulties the Church's pro-Prop 8 stance is causing in California wards. The commenter, a non-LDS Salt Lake resident, said he used to have a live and let live attitude toward the Church, but after seeing it pull out all the stops in California, he had become actively hostile to the Mormons and would from this point on do his best to oppose them in any way he could. Certainly he's not the only one to feel that way. As I said before, I would not want to be a missionary in California right now or in the foreseeable future, no matter which way Proposition 8 goes. Nor do I think I will ever figure out why the Church chose to pick such a huge fight over the meaning of a single word, when the whole substance of what that word means (in California at least) has essentially been accomplished already without Church opposition.

This barn door opened and the horse left a long time ago. Seems a little late to try to lock up, especially at such a cost.

27 October 2008

"Come Out" and Support Prop 8

Am I the only one who can barely restrain laughter as I hear my local ward and stake leadership repeatedly urging the members to "come out" and join this or that public demonstration or neighborhood walk or phone bank in support of Proposition 8? I mean, it's this exact phrase they're using. Over and over. Come out! Come out! It almost makes me wish someone would stand up in the middle of the meeting and say "Okay, okay! Guess what, everybody, I have something to tell you about myself! You asked for it, bishop, here it is!"

Oh well, I can dream, can't I?

25 October 2008

Love Locked Out

While the Shepherd searches for the one,
The one is searching too
For reasons why he can't belong
Or feel as others do.

His love is real, his love is deep;
He cannot understand
Why other sheep would mock it so
And call it contraband.

The Shepherd's soldiers guard the gate
And pass the others through
To kingdoms, exaltations, and
Eternal lives anew.

They stop the one inside the door.
He does not qualify.
He must not love. He's told to wait
Till the Shepherd passes by.

He locks his love inside his heart,
For the Shepherd's soldiers say
That kind can never pass the gate
Or see eternal day.

The one still stands there, sorrowing,
Expecting Shepherd's voice
And answers to his questions: why,
Why did he have no choice.

The decades go. The one still waits.
No Shepherd's voice is heard.
The ticket to salvation
Is love forsworn, deferred.

Yet still he searches, pleading for
Assurance that he, too,
Can someday love without reproach
As all the others do.

Run Report and Ripple Effect

Another fantastic run this morning along the beach you see just there to the left. The tide was way high, almost to the cliffs, so sometimes I was running through water almost a foot deep. So great! There are beautiful places everywhere in the world and many people love the mountains, deserts, forests, etc. the most, but for me it doesn't get much better than racing full-tilt through cool ocean water with fresh morning air and adrenalin pumping, with Beethoven blasting in my ears and keeping time with every step. Sometimes as I run I jump as high as I can into the air for the sheer thrill of it all. It's like being that guy in Chariots of Fire with your own soundtrack. I really don't mean to thumb my nose at everyone else who is far from a beach. It's just that mornings like this are so exhilarating that I had to share. Thank God for the times when life is so sweet, they help carry you through the times when it really sucks.

I recently posted here about how the smallest act of kindness can sometimes have a huge impact. Earlier this week a friend who read my post told me that it had inspired him to do something generous for a European family who visited his business while on holiday. They have become friends as a result, and who knows how his generosity will continue to ripple out across the pond as they remember what he did for them? So I had the pleasure this week of telling the friend who started this whole thing with his pat on my back that he had started a chain of gratuitous generosity that has now reached halfway round the world. How cool is that. God must cry sometimes to see what His children do to each other, but I am so lucky to have been part of something that I'm sure has made Him smile with approval. So everybody who reads this, resolve that today you will commit one small random act of unexpected kindness. You never know how many lives you might bless as a result.

24 October 2008

Politics Makes Strange . . . what was it?

I have been very careful not to say publicly which way I would vote on California's Proposition 8. I have not hesitated to speak on abusive and misguided tactics by either side.

The theft and defacement of Yes on Prop 8 signs by its opponents, the screaming and name-calling, the personal attacks, are all disgusting and, in the opinion of reasonable fair minds, suggest that some opponents of Prop 8 are indeed unreasonable and intolerant.

The spread of misrepresentations and myths by Proposition 8 supporters to manipulate and misuse the faith and simple trust of many members of the various churches who support the proposition is just as objectionable.

Reasonable people on both sides of the issue should find such tactics reprehensible no matter where they originate.

That said, I want to give Latter-day Saint supporters of Proposition 8 a slightly different perspective than you may have had so far. I'm moved to do this by the recent words of Carol Lynn Pearson, who was spot-on in her views. Warning: there are some tough words ahead. This is not a soft & cuddly feel-good can't we all just get along post. But this is a tough issue.

Fellow Saints, in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. While the LDS Church has provided the vast bulk of the staggering war chest amassed to pay for pro-Prop 8 campaigning, don't forget that it is joined in this effort by many other conservative organizations, many of whom are otherwise actively hostile to the Church. At the risk of a little hyperbole, it's like the Sunnis and the Shi'ites joining in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invaders--but the minute the foreigners are gone, the two camps will turn on each other again. Many of the evangelical fundamentalist conservative Christians now marching with the Mormons to support Prop 8 also actively support nationwide campaigns of bigotry and hate against the Latter-day Saints at all other times. (Side note: many of these people claim to do this "out of love" for those poor misguided Mormons, but you know how much love you actually feel when you read or hear their propaganda. Could Prop 8 opponents feel the same way about LDS claims of respect and tolerance for them?)

Fellow Saints, do you like bankrolling those who otherwise actively spread lies and prejudice against you (and others!), and who will surely continue doing so after this election's over? Do you recognize that you're shacked up for the moment with people who've compiled over a century of doing to you what they're trying to do to marriage rights in California as they now exist, and far worse? People who have called you many of the same extreme and hurtful things they call Proposition 8 opponents?

Here's what Carol Lynn Pearson said. "I am so grieved to see whom my church has chosen as friends in this campaign to pass Proposition 8. We have gotten into bed with some of the most extreme of the 'Religious Right,' some of whom are well known as hate mongers. We have been raped by organizations that hate the Mormons but love our money and our energy. Now we find ourselves pregnant with fear and even hate. The rhetoric we use, they have put in our mouths, words based more in fear than in fact."

I want it to be very clear that I am taking no position on Proposition 8 itself. I just want my fellow Saints who do support the proposition to be very clear about who they have chosen to affiliate with in their efforts. On November 5th, look around to see how much of the cooperation remains, and don't be surprised if, as a result of its position on Prop 8, the LDS Church hereafter finds itself permanently saddled in much of public perception with the same reputation that often dogs those other hate mongers you thought were your friends: intolerant, regressive, willing to spend millions to push discrimination into a constitution. You may disagree, but this is how countless people will view the Church if Proposition 8 passes. Many Mormons may say "that's the price of standing up for what's right." Fair enough. But don't be surprised if that is not the end of the fight, or if the baptism rates in the United States fall even further.

23 October 2008

Lesson Learned, And Very Glad Too

Well it looks like a few of us in “the family” (like Bravone) are getting a jump-start on Thanksgiving, for the right reasons. Not piling the plates with turkey and mashed potatoes and high-fat everything else, but with the right attitude for the holiday. Sometimes life really sucks and when it does, it's always good to read about times when it doesn't, when it's positively wonderful. So I wanted to add my 2 cents' worth.

This morning I was up for a conference call at a time when only seminary teachers and early morning drive radio talk show hosts are even thinking about getting out of bed. I was sorely tempted to go back to bed after the call, and really wanted to, but I was wide awake by the time it ended. The physical me wanted to get all cranky at the intellectual me for becoming so alert while it was still pitch black outside and denying myself some sleep. But I'd had a day off from the gym yesterday so decided to tough it out, stay awake, be virtuous, and go for a workout instead of sleeping. I can sleep when I'm dead, right?

The cool thing about my gym is that one of the best beaches I've ever seen is just a 5 minute walk away. So I started the day with a run through the surf. Sky and water were a beautiful blue, sand grey and gold, air surprisingly warm, the air fresh and glowing with new sunlight, gulls circling high overhead, waves smooth as glass before cresting and washing over my feet. The exultant chorus of Beethoven's 9th Symphony on the I-pod as I ran barefoot through the cool water and soft sand of my own private paradise. OMG it was wonderful. One of those times where you want to just jump in the air and shout because it feels so good to be alive and the world is so amazing. I am so lucky in so many ways and so grateful for it all.

Memo to self: Next time you want to indulge your Inner Slug and crawl back into bed or be lazy or shrug off some kind of effort, recall this day and how you felt when body fought spirit and spirit won. Both ended up happier than you could have imagined. Remember this.

22 October 2008

The Real Reason Society is Falling Apart

If you can look past the links to other questionable items, click here for the real reason society is falling apart.

21 October 2008

Pulling Out All The Stops

Amidst the heated rhetoric, a little humor. Thanks Sunstone for a reminder that the Church is made up of fallible humans. What a shock.

20 October 2008

A Little Historical Context

Scott over at Dichotomy has posted in gut-wrenching detail the struggles of a Latter-day Saint who wants to be faithful but sees his leaders overtly propagating what he believes to be misinformation, and the consequences of that for the foundations of his belief. My heart goes out to you Scott and I completely understand the quandary.

He's also posted some excellent quotes from Church leaders about our individual responsibility to investigate and act on advice from those same leaders. Best of show, in my opinion, and slightly revised & updated for our time:

“President Thomas Monson is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” - Apostle Charles W. Penrose (Millennial Star 54:191). The question, of course is whether the First Presidency's request to support Proposition 8 in California rises to the level of “Thus saith the Lord” or whether it reflects “personal views or utterances.” Their letter is almost maddeningly void of any reference that would help make this determination. And even if it is the former, we then have the obligation to “investigate it” rather than “shutting our eyes and taking it down like a pill” as so many LDS seem intent on doing, if blogs and Web traffic are any indication. I won't presume here to say which conclusion I think is correct. I leave that to individual members and the inspiration they seek for themselves.

However, in an admittedly shameless effort to tweak those Iron Rodders who still believe the thinking stops whenever the prophet speaks on any matter, I offer the following quotes from prophets and apostles. I would love to know how LDS supporters of Proposition 8 and the “traditional” marriage of one man & one woman would respond to these:

“The one wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.” - John Taylor (Millenial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227)

“We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if [non-Mormons] envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices, and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations.” - George A. Smith (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 291)

“Some quietly listen to those who speak against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have half-a-dozen devils with them all the time.” - Heber C. Kimball (Journal of Discourses Vol. 5, p. 203)

“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality of wives looks fresh, young, and sprightly.” - Heber C. Kimball (Journal of Discourses Vol. 5, p. 22)

Does the Church support Proposition 8 because if it loses, legal arguments against polygamy could be weakened, and today's Relief Society might not like their men looking for ways to be more “fresh, young, and sprightly”? Just a thought!


It's everywhere in this mortal life. Things that not only don't match, but seem in direct conflict, yet must co-exist, sometimes essentially to create a harmonious larger whole. We can't learn to prize virtue or happiness without exposure to evil and suffering. Humility creates strength. Increased wisdom brings greater sorrow, as Ecclesiastes says. Forcing people to do something can ultimately bring about the opposite of the original goal. Willing obedience to certain types of laws brings greater personal freedom. There's never a policeman around when you need one, but always when it's you that rolls through the stop sign. Life is filled with paradox.

So is the gospel, e.g. find your life by losing it, knowledge comes only after a trial of faith, and more. Some paradoxes seem intrinsic no matter how much we know. Some are probably the result only of knowledge that is incomplete for the present.

One paradox that I have no hope of resolving is that of how those with SGA fit into the Plan of Salvation. The Bible is sparse in its treatment of this subject (the specifically LDS canon says nothing whatsoever) and persuasive scholarly analysis of its handful of relevant verses suggests there's less actual condemnation of homosexuality even in those verses than most LDS members think. On the other hand, I hear individual LDS leaders condemning homosexuality in terms as vigorous as any I've heard on any subject, yet the Church has addressed the matter in a variety of ways over time; this suggests that our knowledge of it is incomplete.

Paradox #1: LDS theology requires heterosexual marriage in the temple as a prerequisite for the highest celestial rewards. All Church members are encouraged to aspire to that goal which is theoretically available to everyone, because God loves all His children equally and is no respecter of persons. Yet He also seems to have created a significant number of children who could be incapable of reaching that goal or complying with its requirements in this life. Not because they are wicked or faithless, but because the true desire of their heart is for someone of the same gender. Some with this desire do manage to enter and stay successfully in temple marriages, but remain conflicted to one degree or another throughout their lives. Others never even make it that far and are honest with themselves and others that they simply cannot muster up any other desires. If God has created some of His children in this way, as seems more and more apparent over time, does that mean He's created some who are truly incapable of reaching what the Church teaches should be everyone's goal, and that such people should be satisfied with something less?

Paradox #2: “Men are that they might have joy” - Lehi. “Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” - Gordon B. Hinckley. Life is a test, but it's not supposed to be all misery and anguish. Part of the benefit of wading through the crap is that we're supposed to have some compensating happiness along the way, and as our ultimate destination. The Church teaches that the greatest happiness in life is to be found in a heterosexual family with children. Again, promoting this goal is the relentless focus of every Church program and organization. Yet there are many who honestly find that their greatest happiness is with a partner of their own gender, and they feel hollow and incomplete without one. Their situations are indigestible by Mormon theology. No other group of people in the Church is effectively denied the hope of celestial marriage and exaltation because of how God made them. Many such persons raised in the Church ultimately choose to leave because they just can't tolerate the loneliness of single, celibate life in a church that tells them they must smother the sincere desires of their hearts for love and companionship as the price of a vague and undefined hope of “cure” in some future life. Result: some of God's children find the greatest personal happiness and fulfillment by rejecting the teachings of a theology which is supposed to offer the greatest happiness to all.

Paradox #3 – Latter-day Saints who have a testimony of the gospel, who are or have been married, who struggle with SGA, but who do not want to abandon their faith. Such persons, while living outwardly according to the teachings of the Church and their spiritual convictions, are also told by that same Church that part of their nature is repugnant to the rest of what they believe and can be fatal to their eternal prospects. They want the highest reward; they aren't satisfied with temporal happiness alone. Yet something in their nature makes it impossible for them to desire exclusively the kind of relationship and behavior they're taught is a requirement for it. This is perhaps the most challenging situation of all. To have reached the threshold for grabbing the brass ring, yet inside helplessly wanting something else too that could put the brass ring out of reach for good. To already be with her or him, yet unable to stop wanting to look for him or her. Some LDS have said gender orientation is for this mortal life only, but I find no Scriptural basis for that. The paradoxical internal conflict for such persons seems permanent.

I have no answers for any of these. I can only describe what I see. Some advocate celibacy and strict adherence to Church teachings throughout life in order to qualify for whatever as-yet undefined resolution to the conflict and eternal reward that God may choose to give those who didn't or couldn't honestly marry in the temple in mortality. Some find they're just not capable of enduring the isolation and loneliness that such a choice could well impose. Some go further and conclude that God would not want any of His children to endure such a life as the result of a personal characteristic they never chose and couldn't change, when much greater happiness was in fact available to them elsewhere.

I don't think the LDS Church itself, or its leaders, yet know fully what to do about this issue. “God Loveth His Children” represents some progress, but I believe it still rests on incomplete knowledge. If we really believe the 9th Article of Faith's statement that God has yet to reveal “many great and important things” pertaining to His kingdom, then we must concede that we don't know all there is to know about how SGA Saints fit into the Plan of Salvation.

I agree completely with the bishop quoted at Chase's blog who said “I wish the Prophet would make same gender attraction a matter of sincere prayer. I wish he would get on his knees tomorrow and not get up until he received an answer. But that probably is not going to happen. You just need to find a place where you can be happy and still close to God." This matches what I recently read elsewhere of a young gay LDS man who met with President McKay years ago, and when their visit concluded, Pres. McKay said “You have a difficult road ahead, stay close to the Savior.” The young man said that he was an active, faithful member of the Church. “I didn't say the Church,” Pres. McKay replied, “I said the Savior.” It is interesting to read of a prophet suggesting that one can stay close to the Savior without necessarily remaining close to the Church. Sadly, I think this attitude would be more rare in the LDS Church today.

Until one of Pres. McKay's successors stays on his knees long enough to get more understanding than we now have (and I pray all the time for that to happen soon), I have to breathe a deep sigh and conclude we must simply live with the limited knowledge we've now got, and that each person affected by any of these paradoxes will have to seek inspiration for their own choices. I am not persuaded there's a one-size-fits-all answer. I cling to my faith in fundamentals, that God indeed “loveth His children” of all kinds, colors, and desires, that He will reward each of us according to our works and the righteous desires of our hearts, that the Savior will apply the Atonement to each of our lives as liberally as possible (and certainly more liberally than we allow to each other), and that someday all these seeming paradoxes will be explained. May that day come soon.

16 October 2008

More on the Prop 8 Debate

Today I ran across this and it's worth passing on. Some amusing tongue-in-cheek stuff but also some serious discussion there too.

15 October 2008

Two Points on Prop. 8

I've read a lot of vigorous debate recently about California's Proposition 8 which would put into that state's constitution a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. I understand the arguments on both sides and have tried to be careful not to say which way I would vote on it.

I have, however, reached a couple of conclusions. Not about the proposition itself, about which I will continue to keep silent because there are people whom I respect on both sides of the issue, but about how the debate has been conducted and one thing which I think has been lost sight of.

It seems many Prop 8 supporters are willing to accept without question some very far-fetched claims about this proposition and its potential effects, claims which I know from my own research, reading and experience are untrue, and which have been shown to be so. Some Church members seem almost to have a conspiracy theory mindset about the issue. This is not the case with everyone, and I admire those who have clearly put lots of time and thought into their opinions on both sides. Kudos to them all. I won't quarrel with anyone's beliefs one way or the other. But it is disappointing that in a Church whose theology is founded on individual responsibility to seek wisdom and learning by study and also by faith (note that it's both, not just the latter), so many Church members seem to accept instantly without question anything they hear as long as it aligns with their previous beliefs and (sadly) prejudices. That is a natural human tendency, I know. But in the LDS Church we at least profess to aspire to something better.

The point I think has been lost sight of by some is this. I recently talked with a friend who's well-connected in Salt Lake and was actually privy to some of the discussions and internal review there which preceded the First Presidency's letter on Proposition 8. He quoted the Church's own top lawyer as saying “of course people are free to disagree with the First Presidency” on the issue. With emphasis on the “of course.” Many supporters of Prop 8 recognize this and again, kudos to them. But I've seen other Prop 8 supporters question the faith and testimony and commitment to the gospel of those who dare to say that they may not completely agree with the Church's stance on the issue. That is disappointing. It seems that such members have forgotten that the 11th Article of Faith applies within the Church as well as outside it.

Whatever the result in California, I have faith that God sees more than we do, and that He will order all things for the benefit of those who try their best to live according to their faith and knowledge of the gospel in following the Savior's teachings.

13 October 2008

Don't Pass It Up

It really is true that sometimes you have no idea what effect the smallest thing you do will have on someone else. That can be a scary thought, but it can also be a good thing, because it means sometimes you can have a real positive impact on someone else with virtually no effort.

Recently I was in a public setting where I had to give a presentation. Also present was a friend whom I care very deeply about. Due to circumstances we weren't able to talk afterward, but as he passed by, he put his hand on my shoulder, close to my neck, and gave a couple of gentle squeezes. He said nothing, but didn't need to. I got the message, and my heart glowed for days afterward. His gesture made the friendship even more meaningful than it was before.

Lesson: Never pass up the opportunity to do something good for someone else, especially if it's something small, quick, and inexpensive. You never know how much it might mean.

12 October 2008

What To Make Of This?

Dreams can be fascinating, puzzling, mystifying, frustrating, ephemeral, and sometimes frivolous, but sometimes they reflect back in condensed form the things we've been thinking about while awake. If so, I must have been thinking yesterday with some sympathy about those Church members in California who are so honestly conflicted about Proposition 8 in the face of the biggest LDS mobilization in recent memory over a political issue.

It didn't last very long, but it stuck with me. It was night. I was standing outside a large house, looking in through expensive beveled glass French doors. Inside was a large and beautifully furnished room filled with men and women, and now that I think about it, they were all seated as couples. Every chair was taken and some were seated on the floor. Everyone was well-dressed. It was clear these people lacked for very little. All were smiling and the conversation appeared to be lively.

I paced outside the door and the adjacent windows for a little while. The doors were locked. Finally someone inside saw me and came to the door. I asked if I could come in. “By yourself?”, he asked. Yes. “Just a minute.” I waited. A few moments later, he came back. “Well, okay, you can come in, but you have to sit over there and you can't join the conversation or participate. You can watch but that's all.” I agreed because it was cold outside and I was tired of being out there by myself. I went in and took a seat. Some were polite and said hello, but after that nobody took much notice of me, and I just sat quietly. Everyone appeared to be waiting for the leader of the group to appear, and the dream ended before he did. But the last thing I remember was somehow knowing that when the leader finally got there, things would be different, I would be allowed to participate, and I wouldn't be largely ignored in a corner anymore.

08 October 2008


I don't watch much TV, but a mental health break Web surf through some lite fare led me to this article. Yeah, that one over there on the left. I've never seen this series but maybe House and Wilson will help more people understand that in the right circumstances, bromances can be non-threatening, perhaps even good and healthy. Not that Dr. House looks or acts like the poster child for healthy well-adjusted guys, but you get the point. This may be a series worth following.

From Black & White to Mostly Gray. And I'm Glad.

When I was a kid I had this idea of the Church and the gospel as monolithic, fixed, settled, and fully defined (I suppose children need to think in such simplistic, black & white terms because it makes them feel secure). As I grew up, though, I learned from my own and others' experiences that in fact the opposite is true. We believe God will reveal many great and important things in the future. We have no fixed creed like other Christian sects do, and the canon of LDS scripture is open-ended, not closed. The organizational structure of the Church changes all the time. The more I study, the more I see in LDS doctrine that is open-ended and subject to a wide variety of individual perspectives. Though there is much about the Church as an organization (and about Mormon culture) that drives me nuts, I really like this characteristic of the restored gospel. We consider it not only a virtue but an obligation to be continuously learning, studying, exploring, asking questions. Most revelation comes as an answer to a question. God didn't suddenly whack Joseph Smith on the head one day and say “OK kid, you're it, time to start it up again!” Joseph had to think things through for a long time and reach a point where he wanted an answer as much as he wanted the air he breathed. And that's when he got it, not before.

This tells me that God wants us to use our brains to figure out as much as we can on our own. How else will we learn to think for ourselves, to analyze, examine evidence, prioritize, make accurate judgments, arrive at conclusions, yet keep our minds open to new evidence and new knowledge? It's a skill like any other. I think that's why the Savior said He wasn't pleased with those who need to be commanded in all things. The celestial mansions aren't going to be populated with a lot of uncritical slugs who spent their whole lives doing nothing but what they were told. They'll be filled with those who learned through study and experience how to act independently to “bring to pass much righteousness.”

I think I would be bored silly in any other church that didn't have this perspective. It means I am not only free to have my own opinions but that I'm expected to question, to ask “how” and “why.” How does the Atonement work? How do I recognize real inspiration? How to explain some of the conundrums in Church history? How do SGA Saints fit into the plan of salvation? Many in the Church may not like this approach and discourage any questioning or doubts or disagreements. I disagree. I think it's not only healthy, but obligatory for all of us to actively question and search and try to learn all the time. I'm no genius and there are lots of people much smarter than me. But where we're at isn't as important as the direction we're heading. We can be faithful to as much of the gospel as we understand and know to be true while still having questions and even doubts about other things. It's not a monolith. It's a path, with lots of markers on the way. We all have a long way to go. I love the journey, and I love sharing it with so many.

04 October 2008

What, Again?

I must be nuts. I promised myself a day off yesterday but couldn't keep away from the gym and ended up running/walking 4 miles that time, then up at 6 a.m. today even though it's Saturday, and out the door by 8 a.m. for weekend errands. The kids are not quite old enough to be made to sit through General Conference and get anything out of it, so I don't try. I'll give them the "greatest hits" later in FHE, a much better use of time for them. So today I am actually tiring out my kids instead of the other way round. LOL.

03 October 2008

Pushing Yourself

With rugby season on the way, time to get serious again about fitness, so last night I ran/walked 3.5 miles in far less time than I've ever done before, then spent some time with the weights. When I was done my shirt was completely soaked, and I ended up falling asleep almost as soon as the kids did. But the endorphins were pumping and it felt really good. I couldn't have done this a while back when I'd let the self-discipline lapse more than I'd like to admit. But I wasn't going to let aching muscles or gasping lungs be the boss. I'll give myself a day off today to recuperate, then hit it just as hard or harder tomorrow. A buddy of mine who's a trainer is going to join me and really kick my butt to get me into top condition. I'm excited.

I don't remember being eager to be so rigorous with myself when I was a kid. Everything was all about self-indulgence, having fun, satisfying the particular cravings of the moment. I feared the difficulty and the pain of stretching myself like this, and assumed it would always take some outside authority to make me try. Understandable for a kid or teenager. But if (yes, if, some guys never do it) you become a man, you gradually put away childish things. You learn the satisfaction of self-discipline, of pushing yourself to meet higher goals, of overruling yourself in order to achieve something you previously thought you couldn't. And when you achieve it, you discover a type of satisfaction that is deeper and more satisfying than a self-indulgent kid or teenager could imagine. I try to communicate this to my little son in hopes that he'll at least catch a glimpse of the vision and learn sooner than I did how to apply these lessons to his own life. I'm no pinnacle of perfection in this area; we all have weaknesses and lapses and most people have trouble holding religiously to any given discipline for long periods without any fluctuation. But the place we're at is usually not as important as the direction we're heading, and at the moment, I'm glad I made the decision to push myself the right way.

01 October 2008

Counting Blessings

Talking with a friend today about things to be grateful for. I mentioned the Internet because in just the last few weeks it has enabled me to connect with some great people I never knew before and with whom I have a lot in common. Some of their blogs are over there to the right in Places I Visit. The welcomes have been more than I could ever have hoped for and I wanted to say a big Thank You to all (you know who you are). This wouldn't have been possible not so long ago. It's quite a community I've discovered, with some amazing stories of faith and strength. It's been inspiring and I look forward to meeting and learning more and making my own contributions if I can.

Another thing to be grateful for, of course, is that rugby training starts soon. Pads and helmets and 5 second plays with hours of rest in between are like training wheels. Rugby is the real thing. Apologies to American football fans or players whom I may have offended! I wonder if the All Blacks will stomp everybody again this season. Their haka is really something to see.